Actor, funnyman, and action-star Paul Rudd returned to the Stern Show on Wednesday and opened up about everything from playing the Marvel universe’s tiniest superhero to his upcoming “Ghostbusters” film. He also spoke to Howard about his brand-new Netflix series “Living With Yourself” and looked back at his early days in the industry.
It’s no secret his big break came by way of Amy Heckerling’s cult 1995 comedy “Clueless,” in which he played Alicia Silverstone’s straight-laced ex-stepbrother Josh, but Paul told Howard he originally auditioned for different parts before being cast as Josh.
“I thought that some of the other characters were really funny and I remember saying, ‘Oh, Murray, this guy’s hilarious,’ and then [Heckerling] said, ‘Actually we’re going African-American with that.’”
Had he gotten the role of Murray, Paul would’ve played love interest to a character named Dionne, played by actress Stacey Dash. Dash has starred in a variety of films and even once had her own talk show, but these days she’s better known for her political punditry and short-lived Congressional run, if not her recent domestic battery arrest. Howard was curious if Paul had been following the trajectory of Stacey’s career.
“It’s pretty interesting. I never would’ve guessed that road,” Paul told Howard, adding, “Boy, that was a big left turn.”
Paul said he’s stayed in contact with several of his “Clueless” castmates, though he did admit there was some disconnect on set considering he was 24 at the time and many of them were still teenagers. “I always felt a little bit like I was the old guy,” he said.
Though “Clueless” launched Paul’s career and his Marvel work made him an international superstar, plenty of fans recognize him from his recurring role on the final seasons of “Friends.” While playing Lisa Kudrow’s third husband on a hit NBC sitcom and a size-shifting superhero in a blockbuster film franchise might not sound too similar on the surface, Paul said the two projects actually left him with a common feeling.
“It’s a weird thing that I have twice now in my career joined a very established, well-known group. And my whole M.O. is that I just don’t want to get in the way,” he told Howard.
Being the new guy did at least provide for some comedic fodder, however. Paul recounted one anecdote from shooting the “Friends” series finale in which he interrupted his good friend Jennifer Aniston while she and producer Marta Kauffman were hugging and getting teary eyed about their journey on the show coming to an end.
“It was an emotional experience, and they’d grown up together and been there together for 10 years on the show,” he recalled. “I would just go over and join the embrace and go, ‘Guys, what a ride, huh?’”
Howard thought the joke was hilarious, but Paul conceded it didn’t go over quite as well with the main players on set. “It bombed,” he said. “That’s a common thing where like the joke gene kicks in and it’s like, ‘Dude, read the room.’”
Flatlining a joke is one thing, but the actor also once flattened Jennifer Aniston’s already injured foot while on set. Paul said the mishap occurred during the shoot of his very first episode when he was saw co-star Matt LeBlanc trying out a Segway on set. “I said, ‘Oh, can I try,” he recalled.
“She let go and I started to lean back and I turned the thing instead of going straight, and it just ran over her foot,” Paul said.
“What was the aftermath?” Howard wondered.
Paul said Jennifer was in serious pain, but she stood tough after the incident. The writer and producers, however, were a different story. “They looked completely freaked out,” he said.
“I felt like just a complete idiot,” Paul continued, adding, “I shouldn’t be on a Segway.”
The actor had far less trouble climbing aboard Marvel’s blockbuster superhero franchise. He made his first appearance as the titular hero in 2015’s “Ant-Man” and the film pulled in over a half-billion dollars worldwide. Despite the fact the Marvel Cinematic Universe was already chugging ahead at full steam, Rudd quickly became one of Marvel’s most prominent stars.
He said his superstar status feels weird sometimes when he’s out with his kids and people recognize him as Ant-Man. Paul said he brings his kids with him to set sometimes, and Howard wondered if he thought their father’s fame might be affecting his children. “Any parent … whatever your actions are, whatever your job, you just don’t want you kids to get fucked up,” he said. “You just want to protect your children.”
Howard also wondered how he felt about director Martin Scorsese’s recent remarks about superhero films. “I’m not insulted by anybody saying anything, really,” Paul told him.
“Is it cinema?” Howard asked.
“I think it is,” Rudd replied, adding, “Ultimately, you just really care about relationships with people. It isn’t all just special effects driven … I know when we’re working on these things we care about the characters.”
“We’re trying to deal with human issues and things that are relatable—not just rides,” he continued.
Paul had kind words for recent Stern Show guest Robert Downey Jr, saying his “Iron Man” and “Avengers” performances were particularly impressive. “I feel like there’s such a looseness with him in the way he kind of interprets everything and the way he interacts with people,” Paul told Howard. “He then created something where you can’t even imagine another actor in that part.”
Though he disagreed with Scorsese’s assessment, Paul joked that the filmmaker wasn’t completely off base in comparing superhero movies to theme park rides seeing as how he’d once in fact traveled to Hong Kong to cut the ribbon on a brand-new Ant-Man ride, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Paul’s Marvel-related giddiness wasn’t limited to rollercoasters, either. He told Howard he geeked out on set when coming face to face with Avengers props which he’d seen on the big screen before joining the franchise.
“It is impossible to not be kind of caught up in all the stuff. We were shooting ‘Endgame’ and I said ‘Wow, there’s [Thanos’s] gauntlet, there’s Thor’s hammer,” Paul recalled.
He told Howard he once even got to hold Captain America’s iconic shield while actor Chris Evans was indisposed. The shield was heavier than it looked.
His “Ant-Man” alias Scott Lang is a master thief and sure enough Rudd managed to snag some memorabilia of his own while shooting the films. “I have an Ant-Man helmet, “he told Howard, though he admitted that instead of stealing it from set he just asked to take it home.
Ant-Man is capable of changing sizes, talking to ants, and even traveling through time, but Howard wanted to know which Avenger was the strongest of them all. “I’m biased. I have really, really good powers,” the actor responded.
Howard also had a question about a popular Marvel fan theory which had predicted Ant-Man would defeat “Endgame’s” villain Thanos by shrinking to the size of an ant and crawling up his backside before suddenly expanding again and making him explode.
Paul said the “Thanus” theory gives him a good laugh but never seemed plausible considering Thanos is so powerful he could probably just shrug the attack off. “If he could take out half of all civilization, why couldn’t he expand his anus?” Paul wondered.
Howard recalled Paul had teamed up with “Walking Dead” star and fellow Stern Show guest Jeffrey Dean Morgan to open up a candy shop, and he wondered whether business was booming. Rudd told Howard their candy store is “doing all right,” but he seemed more excited to talk about Morgan.
“Aww man, he’s the coolest. He’s so cool, people … they get a little weirded out about him. He has a power,” Paul explained.
Memorabilia and candy stores aren’t the only perks of being famous, either. Rudd has also hosted “Saturday Night Live” four times over the years which puts him in rarified company. As Howard’s co-host Robin Quivers pointed out, the actor is now only one appearance shy of joining the Five-Timers Club. Paul said he’d love to return to host the show a fifth time, but he admitted it’s far more intense than people realize.
“It’s crazy. It feels like being shot out of a rocket ship,” he told Howard. “Somebody pulls off your pants, somebody puts a wig on you, and then they zip you around back, and you don’t know where you are, and then you walk through the door and you’re on the set of another sketch.”
Another reason why he’s enjoyed hosting is the “amazing musical guests” he’s been paired up with, including Beyoncé and Sir Paul McCartney. He still remembers the night in 2010 when former cast member Bill Hader called him up to break the news he’d soon share the stage with an actual Beatle. “I didn’t go back to sleep,” Rudd told Howard. “I just thought ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m going to be in the same room with Paul McCartney.”
The actor remembered Sir Paul playing several of his most famous songs to a crowd of about 10 on the Thursday before the show while trying to decide which of his many hits he would perform that weekend.
“I’d be in heaven,” Howard said.
“He sat at this piano, and I was just standing over his shoulder … he just sat down and started playing ‘Long and Winding Road,’” Paul remembered. “I looked at his feet on the pedals, I was looking at his fingers pressing the keys … slowly but surely more people started filtering into the studio.
“And then he started playing Beatles songs for all of us in the room,” he continued.
“You’re watching Mozart,” Howard said.
“You’re watching Mozart, right,” Rudd agreed. “In a way, who cares about anything else?”
Perhaps Paul’s fifth time hosting the show will come when the actor’s new “Ghostbusters” film hits theaters next year. He told Howard he recently finished shooting the movie, directed by Jason Reitman, son of legendary director Ivan Reitman, who helmed the original and serves as producer on this new one.
Though he didn’t share too many “Ghostbusters” 2020 details, he did say the film acknowledges the events of the 1984 original, which conceivably opens the door for stars like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson to return for a cameo.
Super fans of Paul needn’t wait for “Ghostbusters” to get their next fix, however. They can check him out on whatever sized screen they like on “Living With Yourself,” the new sci-fi comedy series on which he plays a man who gets cloned and replaced by a seemingly better version of himself. Howard has already enjoyed several episodes of Paul’s new show but wondered if starring as multiple versions of the same character was difficult.
“It was tricky,” Paul said, explaining how he had to record lines as each character and then shoot them one at a time.
Though the show features multiple Paul Rudds, he does get to star opposite Irish actress and comedian Aisling Bea, who plays his wife. Paul said one of his and Aisling’s romantic scenes was also tricky to shoot, in part because her nipple coverings kept falling off.
“I’m lying on top of this poor girl. I’m kissing her. And, like, we’re at work. This is our job,” he recounted, adding, “She’s sweating, her Nippits are falling off ... Then it’s weird because the scene’s over and she’s just got a Nippit on her neck.”
Another cast member drawing recent headlines isn’t an actor but an athlete: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who makes a cameo on the show and also plays multiple versions of himself.
“The idea that we would have a clone and it’s the best version of their selves and they just do everything right and they’re great—Tom Brady is the epitome of that,” Paul said, adding he was “so touched” Brady connected with the script and agreed to be on the series.
Despite having a new show and several upcoming films, Paul told Howard he’s recently made more of an effort to spend quality time with his son Jack and daughter Darby. Though he’s already been a huge part of their lives thus far, he said it hasn’t stopped his kids from teasing him about missing out on a thing or two in the past because of his busy schedule. Paul has learned to embrace the joke himself now and sometimes he and Jack even perform a karaoke duet of “Cat’s in the Cradle,” Harry Chapin’s somber ballad depicting a father and son’s strained relationship.
Paul was magnanimous enough to sing several verses of what he called his favorite song of all time, "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. Howard returned the favor and belted out a few lines of another standard, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” to close out their interview.
“Living With Yourself” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.